Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Favorite Plant of the Week AND Favorite Native Plant of the Month - Liatris Spicata

My favorite plant in the garden this week is Liatris spicata. The variety I bought years ago is Kobold.

The first  year or two it was a bit leggy and floppy but it's become a nice thick, strong clump.

It does spread in the garden but the seedlings are easy to remove if you catch them early.

And the native pollinators love it.

Zones: 3 to 8
Height: In my yard it's 2 to 3 feet (taller than the label claims)
Spread: about 1 foot, although if it reseeds right by the parent plant you can end up with a cluster of plants wider than this
Sun: Full to mostly full sun. In part shade they do tend to be floppier but they still bloom
Water: I don't water mine at all
Bloom period: July and August

Danger Garden hosts the Favorite Plant in The Garden Meme
Clay and Limestone hosts Wildflower Wednesday.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Pot Party Friday!

I like using potted plants in the garden. I'm pretty happy with how mine have worked out this year.

Unfortunately I prefer large pots but I live in an area with freezing winters and there is a limit to what I can carry. I have two of these. They are plastic and were cheap so if they freeze and crack during the winter it's not a big deal. I like the way they look but I may need to do something different next year - the palms are getting sunburned.

My driveway is just a little bit wider than it needs to be. Not wide enough for two cars but definitely room for a car and a motorcycle to park side by side.

We don't have a motorcycle.

So I potted up a variety of herbs and lined the driveway. I've done this for the past few years but I'm finally starting to feel like it's getting "there." I like the large number of different sized pots and the different textures and colors of plants.

Well, maybe it could use a few more pots next year...

Lastly, the front porch pots. I have two of these, one on each side of the front door. I wish I could take credit for the mix of plants but I bought them as a pot grouping from White Flower Farm

I'm just starting to experiment with mixing plants in pots. I've seen plenty of bad combinations, where one plant outgrows everything else. This combination is growing together nicely.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

More Peru Pictures

And, finally, he's the round of of the best photos that didn't fit into any of my earlier narratives.

Let's start with plants.

Two different types of Heliconia.

This is some weird, but tasty, fruit called the Granadilla.

A nice, bright red dragonfly, photographed high in the tree canopy.

An unidentified insect, possibly in the assassin bug group.

And finally, for Sarah. I told you I'd think about you while I was in Peru.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Foliage Follow Up July 2014

While the flowers are all orange there is still some gorgeous foliage to be found this month here on The Edge.

I bought two gorgeously dark Cimicifuga [Actea] simplex Brunette and planted them in a partly shady area - this one kept some dark pigment and developed these complexly colored leaves. The other one is mostly green (bleh). They're supposed to get big, which is good since they're in a shrub border with lots of Viburnums.

I'm not sure if this Panicum  is Heavy Metal or Cloud Nine. I bought both and can't really tell the difference in my garden. Still, it's nice and [very important] it's dog-resistant. Even when My Little Predator tried to dig it up to get at something hiding deep inside the plant.

Ah, Physiocarpus opulifolius Diablo [ninebark]. Go ahead, tempt me, you sexy thing!

What's mid-summer with Hostas? I'm a fan of the jumbo sized leaves on these two: Guacamole (on top) and DamnIForgotToRecordTheName (on bottom).

Sambucus [elderberry] Black Lace

And a surprise appearance by Baptisia australis. Not normally known for their foliage they do form a nice shrub sized clump during the summer. Unless it pours down rain. In which case they flop over like drama queens.

This is Gaura lindheimeri Guadi Red. I bought it to bring some more dark pink genes into the gene pool of the volunteer reproducing Gaura in my yard. It hasn't bloomed yet but I really like the colors in the foliage.

Ferns are always good for foliage photos. Lady in Red on top and Ostrich on bottom (note the dots on the underside of Ostrich's leaves? Those are the spore producing structures)

 And let's end this month with a close up of a very nice Canna leaf (possibly Tropicanna). 

Thanks to Pam at Digging for this meme

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Garden Blogger Bloom Day July 2014

My garden is in full summer form right now and the native pollinators are HAPPY! As am I.

The Echinacea purpura wild type has gotten established and is blooming well.
I also planted a couple of different colored Echinacea but they aren't doing quite as good. This is consistent with what I've heard from others - the fancy hybrids just limp along and die out while the species does fantastically well.

Likewise, my Liatris spicata Kobold has gotten established. The first year it flopped over really bad but now it's producing strong flower stems. And it's spread around a little. I'm ok with that. I'm ending up with a garden that has a few different plants that do well and have spread around so that they look like I deliberately repeated them. THEY are making ME look like I know what I'm doing.

This is Rudbeckia hirta Cappuccino. I bought several types of Rudbeckia when I first moved in. I didn't realize they were self - seeding annuals at the time. Cappuccino is the only one that's come back. Just goes to show you can't always trust what you read on the label. Perennial, my a$$

Veronica spicata Red Fox (I think, either that or Eveline, I planted both and can't remember which one went where and did NOT do a good job of record keeping - Bad Gardener!)

And Friend.

Monarda fromaneighborii

Our winter was warm until the end then it got cold. Because of this many people's hydrangeas had started to come out of winter mode too early and got nipped back to the ground. This Hydrangea mislabeledus (labeled as Lady in Red) is planted close to the house so it was protected and is blooming just fine, thank you.

The Helenium Mardi Gras is not looking as good as last year but I still like the flowers. It accidentally ended up too far back in the bed and needs to be moved in the fall. Remind me to go out and stick a label on it while it's in bloom and I can remember where it is.

I moved several of these Coreopsis verticallata Zagreb to the Hell Strip. So far they're doing well. This is the remainder of the clump. I like how it contrasts with the Hyssopus officinalis. I just have to keep the Zagreb in check. It has delusions of taking over the world [with a name like Zagreb of course it thinks it's an Evil Genius]

I like daisies [Leucanthemum Becky], although the white color doesn't go well with the rest of my bright summer garden. Or my bright, colorful house, or my messy, mud-covered life. 
I do not have to be consistent if I don't want to be and you can't make me.

Thou Shalt Not Pass. Also know as I need to find a better way to stake up the Gaura. I have several varieties: whites, pale pinks, bright pinks and the offspring of them. It's another plant that volunteers to move about the garden and create a sense of repetition. I just wish the middle and dark tones pinks survived as well as the pale pinks...

I bought a collection of Petunia called "Blueberry Muffin". I have to say I really, really like the result in that thin wedge of dirt between the front landing and the fireplace. 

Finally, last week's plant of the week - Asclepias tuberosa, friend to gardeners who want summer color, friend to those of us who don't like to water the garden, friend to Monarch Butterflies, and friend to lots and lots of bees.

I support native pollinators.

Thanks to Carol at May Dreams for this meme.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Most Exciting Event of Amazon Watershed Trip

This may not seem like it, but it was the most exciting part of our trip to the Amazon Jungle.

We did NOT get to see the elusive jaguar. Going to Tambopata gives you pretty good odds of seeing a Jaguar (they estimate that 13% of their guests get to see one. Our guide told us he sees one about every 10 days to two weeks).

The odds of these guys? Tambopata lists them at 2% but our guide told us this was his third or fourth spotting in 10 years of guiding.

That's right - those are Anacona. Take a good look to the right of the photo and you'll see the female's body starting to drop down the riverbank to the water. It's hard to tell from this photo but that body is MASSIVE.

The big one is the female but there are two smaller ones visible as well. Those are the males. That's right, this is a breeding ball.

They stayed in a visible spot on the river bank for 2 or 3 days. We were lucky enough to see them while heading upriver to the research center.

I know the only people who get excited about seeing Anaconda are biology geeks but I'm a biology geek and I got real excited!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Afternoon in the Amazon

After lunch we would generally have some down time. We could do laundry, lie in a hammock or observe the wildlife around the lodge.

These lizards were all over the place during the afternoons. I think this one was eating a tarantula.

This is a white lipped peccary, relative of pigs (you probably guessed that) and the greatest natural roto-tillers I've ever seen. A whole herd of them came by one afternoon and turned up the soil around the lodge.

Peccaries come in large groups (up to a couple of hundred) and the weakest and slowest are stuck at the back of the group. That way if a jaguar comes upon the group from behind (or they're fleeing) it's the weak and slow that get eaten.

And they STINK. Worse than well-kept domestic pigs. You could tell when they were around by the smell.

Oddly the temperature peaked about lunch time and the afternoons got cooler so by 3 or 3:30 it was time to head out again. My favorite afternoon hike was to a large tower on the edge of a cliff. It was a bit of a slog through the mud but then we got there. And had to climb up a ladder on the outside of the tower. The (estimated) three story tall tower. 

The view was nice.

The Husband is a bit afraid of heights, though. Or, as he puts it, not heights, not falling, it's the LANDING he's scared of.

I'm more scared of these guys - Bullet Ants. When they bite it's supposed to hurt as bad as being shot. And they were moving quickly along the railings, including where we had to get hand holds to climb down.


When we could, we timed our hikes back to occur in the dusk of the evenings (around 6 pm) so we could use our headlamps to spot insects, frogs and other small critters.


Tree Frog 

I haven't ID'd this snake yet. The guide picked it up but he was squeezing it a bit tight. Once he handed it to me (yes, me) I help it more loosely and it calmed down and everyone who wanted to was able to pet it's tail. Unfortunately the snake being calm did not translate into The Husband being able to take an in-focus picture of it in my hand (or to include my face in the photo). 

Waxy Monkey Frog. Also known as Please Don't Eat Me!

On one of our dusk hikes I taught everyone in our group an old Boy Scout Trick my dad taught me - Smelling Spiders. It works really well with a headlamp on but you can also hold a flashlight up by your nose and get it to work.

This only works at night and with an artificial light source. Go outside, have your light near your nose and start smelling.


Smell that? 


Do you see any tiny glimmers of green light down in the grass? Those little greenish glimmers are the light reflecting off the tapetum lucidum of the spiders' eyes (a reflective layer at the back of the eye - the same layer that makes cats eyes glow in reflected light).

The trick is to look for those green reflections and just tell the naive young boy scouts that you're smelling them. [I know, it's kind of a dumb joke but from what I could tell a lot of boy scouts is about kind of dumb jokes]

There were spiders EVERYWHERE.

Not all were this big, many of them were tiny. It was pretty cool when you could see the tiny jumping spiders' movement based on their eye shine.

[By the way, moth eyes reflect red]

After finally making it back to the lodge we usually had just enough time to shower before dinner. Which was good because after hiking all day through inches of mud we smell pretty much like... well, like a bunch of monkeys.

Dusky Titi Monkey [photographed from my room.]